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Organic 101: Sound and Sensible Approach to Organic Certification

The ‘Sound and Sensible’ initiative is about removing barriers to certification, and working with farmers, like the one pictured here, to correct small issues before they become larger ones.

The ‘Sound and Sensible’ initiative is about removing barriers to certification, and working with farmers, like the one pictured here, to correct small issues before they become larger ones.

This is the twelfth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market. Under the USDA organic rules, organic farmers must demonstrate they are protecting the environment, supporting animal health and welfare, and producing their products without the use of prohibited substances (including synthetic pesticides). Read more »

Two Generations Improve Their S.D. Property for Livestock, Wildlife

Grass may be abundant in the prairies of northwestern South Dakota, but the installation of water sources was essential for the Andersons to evenly distribute grazing across their pastures. Notice the dog keeping a watchful eye over his band! (Photo courtesy of the Anderson family)

Grass may be abundant in the prairies of northwestern South Dakota, but the installation of water sources was essential for the Andersons to evenly distribute grazing across their pastures. Notice the dog keeping a watchful eye over his band! (Photo courtesy of the Anderson family)

Conservation has long been a key element on Dan and Sharon Anderson’s ranch. The Andersons, who raise sheep and cattle west of Glad Valley in northwestern South Dakota, have a passion for healthy resources that grew out of respect for what conservation has done for their ranch.

In 1959, Dan’s father, James, purchased the ranch, which had seven pastures. With help from USDA’s Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service), the elder Anderson started cross-fencing the larger areas to give his livestock better forage options and nutrition. When he took over the farm in 1990, Dan expanded this practice, continuing to work with NRCS to implement an extensive rotational grazing program. Today, the Andersons rotate both cattle and sheep around 32 pastures, with plans to divide the fields further. Read more »

Learning from Promising Models and Leaders in the North Star State

In my position as Under Secretary, I occasionally travel the country to meet with, and learn from, some of the many partners who administer and leverage the USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs. These programs—from school meals to SNAP (formerly food stamps)—currently touch the lives of one in four Americans.

During a whirlwind visit to Minnesota in March, I had the opportunity to meet with a variety of individuals and organizations directly or indirectly involved with one or more of our nutrition programs. For starters, I participated in a terrific roundtable at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health hosted by national nutrition expert Dr. Mary Story, a strong supporter of healthy school meals. Minnesota Senator Al Franken joined me to hear from local organizations and agencies that administer nutrition assistance programs, promote good nutrition or even work with farmers markets. I was impressed with the accomplishments being realized and the creative approaches employed by local partners to improve nutrition, eliminate hunger, support children and families, and connect farmers to local markets. Read more »

Who Says Research Can’t be Fun?

If Morgan Grove had 30 seconds to brief any high-level official, he would simply describe his job as working to make cities better and safer places for people to live.

“Our Forest Service research benefits the public in many ways — including having clean water to drink, safer living environments and recreating outside for healthier lives,” said Grove.

Because of Grove’s love of the great outdoors, he’s observed, learned and shared a lot of his scientific expertise during his 17 years with the U.S. Forest Service. He is a research scientist at the Northern Research Station’s field office in Baltimore, located in one of the most heavily forested and heavily populated areas in the United States. Read more »

Forest Service Prairie May See Bison Again

The Houserock Valley Bison Herd grazes on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. Bison will soon be seen grazing on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The Houserock Valley Bison Herd grazes on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. Bison will soon be seen grazing on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Today, roughly half-a-million bison dot the nation’s landscape, a far cry from the more than 20 to 30 million that once roamed much of North America.

And while they have not been part of the Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie ecosystem for more than a century, the habitat here will soon be home for 20 to 30 of the animals, perhaps as early as December 2013. Read more »

Don’t Go Green this Spring, Greening Disease (HLB) Kills Citrus

Delicious citrus: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Delicious citrus: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service

It’s time to grab those gloves and get outside for some gardening!  April is not only a great time to plant citrus trees, but it’s also Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Before wielding that shovel, take a few minutes to learn how to keep your trees healthy and prevent the spread of citrus disease.

Citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), is one of the most severe plant diseases in the world. The disease has devastated millions of citrus trees in the United States and now has the potential to eliminate the citrus industry.  Once a tree is infected with the disease, there is no known cure. Read more »